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Texas is a big state. No seriously, it's really big (for you European tropers, it's about the size of the entirety of France). So big, in fact, that there are several cities with very large populations, none of which are within 50 miles (80 km) of each other, some of which get mentioned in fiction.

Amarillo

The second-largest city in the Texas Panhandle, and the largest city between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque. The center of Texas' massive beef industry, and home to the largest reserve of helium in the world, wrestler Terry Funk, and actress Carolyn Jones.

Austin

The capital of Texas. Home of the University of Texas (or Texas University to the Aggies), which is the state's largest in terms of enrollment, as well as a traditional powerhouse in all of the Big Three sports (American football, basketball, baseball). Austin is famous for being a notorious pocket of liberalism and counterculture in what is otherwise one of the most conservative states in the country (or as Patton Oswalt put it, "a bubble of sanity") -- it's well known for all kinds of colorful characters, some of whom will run for mayor (look up the name Leslie Cochran if you're feeling brave). Organic supermarket chain Whole Foods Market is based here, as are a host of high-tech companies, making it something of Texas's Silicon Valley - Austin and the surrounding area are sometimes referred to as "Silicon Hills". A related claim to fame is Austin's incredible live music scene, making it known as the "live music capital of the world". There are a number of famous music festivals that take place there, including South by Southwest (or simply SXSW) and the Austin City Limits festival hosted by the PBS television series, and its home to many underground rock musicians. These factors combine to give Austin a level of offbeat quirkiness not commonly associated with Texas.

El Paso

Texas's answer to Sacchin -- it rarely gets mentioned in fiction, probably due in part to its isolation (at least from anything American; the closest major non-Mexican city is Albuquerque). It's a very large city that's right across the border from the even bigger Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, known to anybody who reads/watches the news as one of the most violent cities on earth due to all those drug cartels fighting for control of cross-border smuggling channels. For what it's worth, crime rates in El Paso itself do not seem to be too far above the norm for an American city its size. In addition to its geographical isolation, it also has a noticeable lack of suburbs (Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth have a ton of suburbs, and Austin is very close to San Antonio). Eddie Guerrero's hometown.

Galveston

Oceanfront resort town located on a narrow island about forty miles south of Houston. It was once one of the largest cities in Texas, and one of the busiest ports on the Gulf of Mexico, but it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1900. Although the city was rebuilt, development shifted north to Houston and it never really recovered its former glory. It later became a Mafia controlled Vice City from 1920 to 1957.

Laredo

Famous border town across the Rio Grande from the drug-war-torn city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. The southern terminus of Interstate 35, which runs all the way to Duluth, Minnesota. A major hub of transportation and shipping.

Lubbock

The largest city in the Texas Panhandle, and also the largest city in an extremely flat, barren stretch of land called the Llano Estacado, or 'Palisade Plains'. Home to Texas Tech University.

Odessa

Home to Claire Bennet and the Permian High School Panthers. Its economy is driven by the oil industry, and it started going into decline once the oil started running out, although Texas's booming wind power industry offers hope for a turnaround. It's actually a smaller city than nearby Midland, although nobody outside of Texas seems to notice that, and even most people in Texas consider them to be basically the same place.

San Antonio

Texas's second-largest city as of the 2010 Census (passing Dallas), and the seventh-largest in the US, though the metropolitan area is much further down the list. It's billed as Texas's premier tourist destination -- there's Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Sea World, the Riverwalk, and of course, the Alamo. It also is -- or was at one point -- considered the sweatiest city in the US. Historically speaking, there's still quite a bit of Mexican influence in the town. Also notable for the San Antonio Spurs, who generally put up a good team year in and year out, and for being the home of Shawn Michaels, Michelle Rodriguez, and Summer Glau, which makes it ten times more awesome. Located about eighty miles southwest of Austin, meaning that the two cities are sometimes conflated together -- and between San Antonio's tourist spots and Austin's, well, Austin-ness, it makes life a lot easier for tourists looking to go to a lot of Texas' big attractions.

Waco

A small city located in the middle of the "Texas Triangle" between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio/Austin. In 1953, it got destroyed by the eleventh-deadliest tornado in US history (with a death toll of 114[1]), which stalled its economic growth while cities of similar size like Austin boomed. Forty years later, it was doomed to have its name forever associated with a bunch of doomsday cultists who got into an armed standoff with the ATF and FBI at their compound right outside the city, making the word "Waco" a rallying cry for Right Wing Militia Fanatics for years. Poor town. Also, regardless of one's views on the man, George W. Bush's "ranch", the "Western White House", is located a couple dozen miles outside the city. On the positive side, Steve Martin's from here.

Notes

  1. Another Texas town, Goliad, suffered the same death toll from a tornado in 1902, tying it with the Waco tornado as the eleventh-deadliest tornado in US history.
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